Marcus Rashford has scored 28 goals in all competitions for Manchester United this season.

The next highest is Bruno Fernandes with 10. The “strikers” in the United ranks, Wout Weghorst and Anthony Martial, have scored two and six goals respectively. Cristiano Ronaldo bagged three before his acrominious exit in November.

So when Erik ten Hag was asked if his team were overly reliant upon Rashford to supply the goals – after the England international had done just that in a 1-0 win over Brentford on Wednesday night – he couldn’t hide from “the truth”.

“It’s the truth. But we know other players can score as well,” Ten Hag said. “We have many more players across the squad who can score.”

The evidence from Weghorst’s loan spell so far suggests he cannot be considered among that group. The on-loan Burnley striker is a willing worker but his two United goals have been tap-ins; his finishing is too erratic to be depended on for goals.

The only other possible answer, then, with the transfer window closed until the summer, comes in the shape of Martial. It’s hard to believe the mercurial Frenchman is now 27, it feels like United fans have been waiting forever for him to explode onto the scene. Many believe, due to his various problems maintaining fitness and form, that it simply won’t happen.

After making just one appearance between January 16 and the first day of April, Martial has appeared off the bench in United’s past two matches and looked sharp. Ten Hag insisted it’s too early to consider Martial from the start, but his relationship with Rashford, interplay around the penalty box and genuine pace behind defences has got United fans excited again.

“Obviously, when you see Anthony Martial’s record over the last years, you have to be really careful to plan it,” Ten Hag said after the Brentford game on the Frenchman’s fitness, which is the caveat to all of this.

“So I don’t want to take that risk because I know when he is on the pitch he has a great impact on our performance.”

Ten Hag was quick to point to other options too. It’s unlikely he will completely discard Weghorst just because Martial is now fit, after starting the Netherlands star for 19 successive matches – a run that came to an end on Wednesday.

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford (left) celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game with team-mate Jadon Sancho during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: Wednesday April 5, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Rashford, left, celebrates scoring United’s goal versus Brentford with team-mate Jadon Sancho (Photo: Nick Potts/PA)

In the Brentford game, United began with Rashford through the middle, but it’s obvious that he does his most dangerous work slaloming inside from the left and he switched there upon Martial’s 71st minute introduction.

“I think also you can take in that discussion, that debate, Jadon Sancho,” Ten Hag added. “But I’m sure when they are three or four on the pitch we have a very good frontline.

“A lot of creativity, a lot of intelligence, a lot of pace, a lot of togetherness, I think then we create more, we will have more of a threat. And the balance of that front line will be good.”

A bid for Harry Kane or Victor Osimhen in the summer might bring complete equilibrium to the United front line. But until then, for the next 10 Premier League matches and the knockout stages of the Europa League and FA Cup, a fully fit Anthony Martial might just answer United fans’ prayers.

By admin